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De Lima hints at ‘explosive’ breakthrough in Vizconde probe

March 17, 2011 1:56pm
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Thursday hinted of a breakthrough in the ongoing reinvestigation in the Vizconde massacre case being carried out by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

“It’s something that will make us ask, ‘Can we handle the truth?’," she said at a new briefing. She described the breakthrough as “explosive" although she declined to elaborate.

De Lima said the investigators are now in the process of validating the new lead, and that she is hoping that the case will be finally closed “in the next few weeks" with the prosecution of new suspects.

Kung ma-validate ang sinasabi kong breakthrough, may bagong mapo-prosecute na mga iba (If the breakthrough is validated, there will be other suspects who will be prosecuted," she said.

“But I cannot tell you whether involved pa rin ang third set of suspects. Right now I cannot tell you. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, na mako-close na yan (that the case will be closed) in the next few weeks. Medyo (it’s somewhat) explosive," she added.

The task force is investigating three sets of suspects in the massacre, including the group of Hubert Webb, son of former Senator Freddie Webb.

The Supreme Court, in a controversial decision last December, acquitted Webb and his six co-accused due to the prosecution’s failure to prove that they were guilty beyond reasonable doubt, but De Lima said the ruling did not automatically indicate that Webb’s group was innocent.

Ordered by Malacañang, De Lima formed the task force to investigate the three sets of suspects in the massacre.

Ms. X

On Thursday, De Lima said the investigating task force is “obliged" to look into the claims of a certain “Ms.X," reportedly an immigrant in Australia who claimed that her estranged husband was involved in the massacre.

“The task force is obliged to look into all of these leads. These are processed right away to determine whether these are credible or have bases. We can never ignore any information or lead," De Lima said.

The information about Ms. X came from a new article on the Philippine Star on Thursday, citing a report of Australian investigator Christian Faust, who said that Ms. X made the disclosure to Australian authorities when she sought refugee status visa in 1997.

“She has identified a clean and unrelated source of information which if pursued and investigated correctly will lead to evidence and or the identity of the true offender(s) involved in the Vizconde murders," Faust was quoted as saying by The Philippine Star.

Prescription period

The government is hard-pressed to finish its investigation and file cases against new suspects before the prescription period for the crime of murder lapses on June 30, 2011, exactly 20 years after the murders of Estrellita Vizconde and her daughters Carmela and Jennifer in Parañaque City.

The Revised Penal Code (RPC) dictates that crimes like the Vizconde massacre carry a “prescription period" of 20 years. A prescription period sets the limit for filing charges from the time that the crime occurred.

“Crimes punishable by reclusion perpetua (life imprisonment) shall prescribe in 20 years," says Article 90 of the RPC. - KBK, GMA News
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